Friday, July 20, 2007

North Channel - Killarney & Bye to Essi Anna

We are now in Killarney, Ontario. This is the beginning of the North Channel. We traveled to Beaverstone Bay after leaving Britt. All boats ran smoothly and we anchored inside the bay. Some other boats anchored there as well and "Miss Hospitality" went around and invited everyone to our boat for a get-together.

We had a traffic jam with the dinghys tied behind our boat. These were mostly locals so we could get local information for our travels in the North Channel.
We went exploring in the area and found some interesting things. We saw a cabin that looked like it had not been occupied for a while so we went to check it out. We found places on the back wall where a bear had been clawing the wood apparently to get in.

We hiked in the area to find some ponds we saw on the charts and did, in fact, find them after hiking through a bog and stopping to pick wild blueberries that are everywhere here.

It seems that we ended up eating more blueberries than we kept but we did get enough for blueberry pancakes.

Because of Bill's bad ankle, he elected not to join us on the hike but, instead, he and Gail kayaked to the base of the rocks we were climbing on. All of this area is large granite rock formations.

We headed out to Mill Lake the next day and anchored again. We took our dinghys out to go exploring the area.

We found a den of Minks and was able to finally get one to hold still for a photo.

While out we are always watching for shallow water and deadheads (logs floating just under the surface).

We left Mill Lake and proceeded through Collins Inlet toward Killarney. This inlet is a few miles long channel from Beaverstone Bay to Killarney.

We stopped at an anchorage behind Keyhole island just before Killarney. We had reservations for Killarney at a marina on Thursday so we stopped just close enough to get cell phone coverage as Chuck needed to check on his mother who just had very risky surgery.

Here we went out looking for wildlife again but only found a snake swimming across in front of us.

We pulled into Killarney where Bill is to pick up his brother on Friday. We explored the "town" and at lunch at a famous bus where fish and chips are served.

Chuck received a call from his Dad that has completely changed their plans. His mother did not do well after the surgery and he and Chris are leaving their boat in storage in Little Current until next year and heading for California to be with his parents. We unloaded their boat last night of all food and clothing items that we will carry for them for a while and then we all went to the lodge for the evening. It was interesting that we were next to a fire on July 19.

This morning Gail made blueberry pancakes with the blueberries Chuck and Chris had picked and we had breakfast before our tearful goodbyes.

It has been a very sad morning. Chuck and Chris have cut their trip short that they had planned so long for and we are saying goodbye to a couple that have made our trip so much more enjoyable. It is rare to find someone that you immediately feel comfortable with and that has a similar travel style and value structure. We are lucky indeed that we have found two couples that fit this criteria and we feel that we have formed a very good friendship. We have a strong sense of loss at their early departure.

We will continue our travels with Bill and Gail and his brother. We look forward to meeting him and spending the next two weeks traveling in the North Channel and the north of Lake Michigan. Once we are back in U.S. waters I will be able to use my Verizon air card for internet and not be looking for these few and far between hotspots. We will also be able to use our cell phone again so that will be a relief.

The waters here are more clear than the Georgian Bay and are very blue. Everyone has said that this is the best part of the trip so we are looking forward to seeing this area.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Georgian Bay to Byng Inlet

After leaving the Trent-Severn Waterway we headed into Georgian Bay. This bay is in the northeast corner of Lake Huron and is a very popular cruising area. After being here for a while, I understand why.
We stopped for the first night at Beausoleil Island. This was a great anchorage and since the island is a Provencial Park we were able to hike over the island on designated trails. Other islands are owned by the Indian tribes and we are not allowed ashore without permission. We have left most of the weeds and mud bottoms now and are mostly in rock. This is a more primitive view and also more treacherous. Touching bottom here is exponentially more problematic. I found our first rock with the dinghy as we were exploring the coves around Beausoleil. Luckily I did not do any damage to the prop.

Leaving Beausoleil, we headed for Beckwith island. We anchored there but experienced what I have later learned is called the "Beckwith Roll". Apparently the swells in the bay bounce into this apparently protected bay and roll your boat while at anchor. It reminded me of being back in New York on the Hudson River. While we were here we borrowed Bill and Gail's kayak and went exploring.

The waters here are very clear and remind you of being in the Keys or Bahamas except for the water temperature (much colder).

After our time at Beckwith we crossed back over part of Georgian Bay to go to Frying Pan island and visit the famous "Henry's" restaurant. This restaurant is on an island and is only reachable by boat or float plane. Henry's is a federally registered airport here. We anchored nearby and had dinner at Henry's. They are famous for the Pickeral (Walleye) so that is what we had.

Having our fill of Pickerel for the moment, we headed for our anchorage at Dunroe Island. This small island is just off the Small Craft Route and was a beautiful location. Here is where Stacy had her first real experience with Loons. These birds have the most beautiful haunting calls that echo from the rocky shoreline. We found a pair with two chicks while in the dinghy so we cut off the motor and paddled closer. As we approached the male put on a mighty display that we surmise was to draw our attention away from the female and chicks.

Thy allowed us to get very close and we just couldn't get enough of them.
We had a picnic on a nearby rock island. Stacy and I had bought some charcoal earlier in the trip so we made a rock grill and cooked hamburgers. They just seem to taste better over a charcoal fire.

From Dunroe we went to Parry Sound where we went into the marina for a night. Along the way we had been noticing these foundations of docks and some houses made of timbers filled with rocks. We asked someone local about this and he said that there was no way in the rock to put in pilings as we do in the south. They build these timber frames and fill them with rock to support whatever structure is being built. It still somehow seems a temporary measure to me.

We were able to re-provision here and tackle some maintenance issues. Bill had noticed his anchor line thimble rusting through so we cut the old one out of his line and Chuck spliced in a new one that I had as a spare. Later we had a planning session for our future routing. It is so nice to have others to discuss routes and locations. We are truly blessed in having these traveling companions.

From Parry Sound we stopped in anchorages along the route we had planned. There are anchorages around every rock here. The course here gets tight in some places. We went through a cut called Canoe Channel that was rather narrow. I guess the name should have been a clue.

When we stopped in Hopewell Bay we found four other boats already anchored there. Stacy invited all the women aboard the boats to a "Tea" in the afternoon. Some of these women were local so they provided local knowledge of some of the area.

We passed through an area called Hangdog Channel and noticed that we were now in a more rocky landscape. While we are traveling in the dinghy exploring or passing through narrow areas in the boat we generally post a bow lookout to find any rocks that may not have been charted.

With our next stop being Byng Inlet, we headed out for some open water cruising. Part of this route is outside the protection of the small rock islands and is exposed to all of Georgian Bay. The wind was up and we were rocking and rolling a bit and then just before we got to Byng Inlet Bill radioed that his engine had quit. He quickly deployed his anchor and EssiAnna and SEASEA turned around to assist. Chuck went back to take Bill under tow so they prepared bridles for towing. The seas were about 3 feet so the boats were bouncing around a good bit. Chuck was able to get a line to Bill and tried to pull him forward so he could retrieve his anchor. He could not pull from directly in front for fear of catching Bill's anchor line in his props so Bill could not get the anchor free. With the wind pulling them sideways and with Bill's anchor pulpit being overstressed, the decision was made to sacrifice the anchor and Bill cut the rode.

We led the way back through the channels, some of which were barely wider than our boats while Chris towed Bill and Gail through. These were not easy maneuvers considering the conditions but Chris did an outstanding job.

Once inside Byng Inlet we found an anchorage location and put our anchor out. Chuck and Chris pulled Bill along side and we rafted their boat to ours. We determined that the shutdown was probably due to a plugged fuel filter so we changed it and were able to restart the engine.

We then tried to find a new thimble and shackle to splice into Bill's anchor line (the one Chuck had just spliced at Parry Sound) and attach a spare anchor that Chuck had. We were able to find shackles at the nearby marina but no thimble. For the time being, we just installed our spare anchor rode on Bill's boat with Chuck's anchor and all is well again.

Reflecting on this incident, we realized that it could have been a real disaster. The location was the only location that day or the day before where there was enough water around clear of rocks for Chris to maneuver her boat and not so deep that the anchor quickly set for Bill. If he could not have set the anchor or we had been in a narrow channel area he would have quickly been blown onto the rocks and done severe damage to the boat. The decision to cut away the anchor, while heartwrenching, was the correct decision to keep from having two boats disabled. We had enough spares between us to solve the problem for now and we will get a new thimble and re-splice Bill's rode when we get to Killarney or Little Current in a few days.

We have been held up here in Britt (Byng Inlet) for a couple of days because of high winds and rain. The winds are forecast to diminish by tomorrow morning so we will listen to the weather early in the morning and make our decision on whether to leave.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Orillia, the Big Chute and the end of the Trent Severn
(Title bar still not working)

We have delayed our departure this morning so I can catch up a little on the blog.

We celebrated Canada Day on July 1. This is the same as our Fourth of July. All of the local dignitaries and others do their political duty and there is a parade, bands, vendors, and everything you would expect for this type holiday. We purchased some good maple syrup and local produce.

All of the locals come out and Orillia is a favorite spot as it has a large marina where the locals come to party for the long weekend. There are re-enactments and children's events. At dusk (10:30 here) they had a fireworks display for the finale.

We left Orillia on Tuesday and headed for the Big Chute. This is one of the highlights of the trip. There are a number of pictures of this and I will try to explain how it works.

We drive our boat onto a large rail car that is lowered into the water. They use slings to stabilize the boat but we are literally resting on our keel on the rail car. The car then brings the boat out of the water, over the road, and then enters the water on the other side.

The car rides on two sets of rails that are at different elevations so that the car remains level over the course of the trip.

It is an unusual feeling to be on your boat and riding across the road and having the view of the drop into the water on the other side.

After the trip across the road and down the other side, the rail car rides into the water and you drive off and are on your way.

As far as we know, this is the only “lock” of this type. It was built as a temporary lock until the two locks were constructed here but an economic downturn in the 1920’s stopped construction. The temporary solution became permanent and it is still in use today. Now it is justified more because of the Lamprey eels that are creating havoc in the waterways. Without a conventional lock, the eels can’t pass from one waterway to the next at this point.

As Murphy’s law would have it, as soon as Bill had his boat loaded he could not get the engine to shut off. He had to come back off the rail car and after unloading, we determined that he had a stop solenoid problem and he would have to manually move the stop lever to shut down until we could see about the problem. He did this for a couple of days and we were later able to make some adjustments to the linkage to solve the problem for now.

After leaving the lock we traveled through the final stretch of the Trent-Severn Waterway. We are in rock country now and the channels are narrow and rock lined. We didn't really need a sign to tell us.

As we approach a lock there is a wall with a "Blue Line". There is no radio contact with the lock as there is on the Erie. You signal your desire to lock through by tying to the blue line. The lock tenders will then prepare the lock and call for you on a loudspeaker.

We went through the final lock at Port Severn and ended our trip through the Trent-Severn Waterway.

We have now entered Georgian Bay.

I will update the blog with Georgian Bay the next time I get a good connection.